Skyline Church, the Rancho San Diego megachurch known for hosting conservative speakers such as Glenn Beck and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was harshly judged this week by a former Episcopal bishop famed for defending gay marriage, including his own.In a column for The Daily Beast, the Right. Rev. Gene Robinson wrote about attending a Sunday service at Skyline and finding a mood that turned dark.
“In between the uplifting songs, the message is: They’re coming to get us. One by one, the speakers lay out the parameters of the siege under which Christians live, attacked by liberal and godless forces on every side.”
In a piece headlined “Even After Hobby Lobby, the Religious Right is Still Terrified,” Robinson wrote:
Every message, action and gesture seems calculated to ratchet up the anxiety of those who are listening. And then it’s over. Just like that.
I honestly don’t know how typical such a service is among evangelicals, bent on making people fearful, but if you left that service feeling hopeful, at peace with God, and eager to help the poor and needy, then you weren’t paying attention.
Now a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, Robinson concluded his 1,100-word column posted Sunday with this:
“Anti-gay sentiment is waning in American society, and with that forward progress, conservative churches will see a loss of credibility and a diminished effectiveness of their fear-mongering. That is as it should be. Neither the church nor the state is served by it.”
On Tuesday, Skyline senior pastor Jim Garlow responded.
Answering a Times of San Diego request for comment, Garlow said: “We did not know the writer was in the audience on that Sunday morning service. We did invite him to a Sunday night service.”
Here is Garlow’s full response to Robinson, which he termed “my thoughts.”
Although I do not affirm the lifestyle decision of Gene Robinson, I do consider him my friend. In fact, I emailed a warm note to him and said, “I can answer the question you pose in your article.” I had also read that he had recently divorced the man he married. I asked him how he was doing, and asked if we could talk by phone. He wrote me back this morning, and we are going to talk.
The writer had many wonderful things to say about our church and we appreciate that. Skyline Church is a loving, biblically convictional and very fun place to be. The church has a great sense of humor. Laughter is quite common in our place of meeting.
He misunderstood the nature of fear. We do have fear, but it is a healthy fear, or reverence, for God. We fear or reverence God rather than fearing people.
If we had fear, I would not have invited Gene Robinson, the poster child for same-sex “marriage,” to come speak on our platform. We invited him so that he and I could model thoughtful, respectful, civil discourse.
If we had fear, we would not have asked John Corvino, a homosexual man who has a male partner, who is the head of the Philosophy Department of Wayne State University, come and speak the same day.
If we had fear, we would not, as a Protestant church, have had a Roman Catholic speaker preach the sermon that day.
If we had fear, we would not have a woman preach (some churches do not believe in female preachers) that day.
We believe that marriage was established by God as one man, one woman. Gene Robinson and John Corvino do not. Yet, they were our invited guests that day.
We are so secure in our beliefs that we invited those who oppose the historic, biblical, natural definition of marriage to come speak on our platform, as we are convinced that in the spiritual “marketplace of ideas,” God’s truth — yes, even on the definition of marriage – wins.
We are so secure that we invited those of opposing views, those who disagree with us on the definition of marriage, to be in the audience that day. And, they came. And they were treated cordially, like guests.
We are so secure that I have reached out and formed good friendships with many who have opposing views. And I value these relationships.
Ironically, I have not been invited to speak in their circles. The writer of the article has never reciprocated and asked me to speak in his venues. That is fine as I have never expected it or demanded it or – until the writing of this article – even thought about it.
But it does seem odd that he says we have fear when I invited him to share his ideas on our platform, yet he does not invite me to speak in his places of influence. He is certainly not obligated to ask me at all.
(Candidly, I have a “full plate” as it is, so I am not looking for more things to do.) But the question remains: Why? Could it be that those who oppose the biblical view of marriage are afraid – yes, there is that word – to ask me and people like me to speak? I don’t know. Perhaps. Perhaps not. Maybe they have fear. If so, why do they fear us and our ideas, our thoughts, our biblical convictions.
Do we have fear? Only of one thing, or I should say, person: God. We have a healthy fear or reverence or awe.
We fear him, rather than any person.
There are, however, reasons for cultural concerns. Why are people fired from their jobs for believing that marriage is defined as one man, one woman? Why are people not allowed to get licensed or credentialed if they believe that marriage is one man, one woman?
Would Gene Robinson come to the defense of those who have been fired for expressing their biblical views, their First Amendment right of the full expression of their religious faith? Has he written an article condemning those who are being harassed or fired because they believe marriage is one man, one woman?
He refers to a man from New York City in the article. He does not mention that this man was a Hispanic leader, and a member of the New York City Council who gave a three-minute report about religious liberty in New York City.
Since Gene Robinson lives reasonably close to New York City, did he stand up and defend the right of several hundred black, Hispanic and multi-ethnic congregations that, while the public schools were permitted to rent space to other groups, were thrown out of renting space in public school buildings?
Did the writer of the article miss the key issue that this Hispanic leader from New York City had experienced harassment and discrimination and needed to be defended? Did he fail to mention that a group of black and Hispanic clergy were arrested for protesting that their churches were discriminated against? Why did the author miss the whole reason the Hispanic leader gave the three-minute report from New York City?
And the writer missed one more point. While evangelical churches continue to grow in America and around the world, the denomination of which he is a part has been ripped in two (over the decision to ordain him) and has now split.
The Episcopal Church has been in a downward spiral in attendance for over 50 years, plummeting from the attendance it once was in the middle of the twentieth century, simply because they failed to affirm biblical values.
Why did they fail to affirm biblical values? Because they lacked courage to stand for biblical values, such as the definition of marriage. It is them who have, sadly, walked in fear. Fear of what others might think.
Boldness is walking in truth when the prevailing culture mocks you for it. Fear is when you compromise your values and accommodate to the prevailing winds of belief.
No, we do not walk in fear. Candidly, we walk in faith, in great faith. The Kingdom of God will do great. The authentic churches across America – and there are ten of thousands of them – are doing and will do great.
America, however, might not fare well. If this once great nation continues to drown itself in debt – spending more than it takes in – if she continues the destruction of families – with increasing numbers of children left without mommies and daddies to raise them, then there is reason for concern regarding the future of America.
I suppose that those who have contributed to the moral and economic decline of America should have fear for the fact that they will someday stand before God, and be held accountable for their actions. Now THAT is a reason to have fear.
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